Famous poet, Zehra Nigah, fondly reminisced legendary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s self-effacing mannerism and charming personality at T2F on June 21. Even though the audience mainly comprised of elderly people, the youngsters present at the event avidly listened to the amusing anecdotes about Faiz.
Nigah began with by referring to Faiz as a “fortunate man”, which was highly ironic considering that the dissident poet was forced to languish in jail and ultimately had to spend a life of solitude in exile in Lebanon. But as hapless as this bard’s life may appear in retrospect, he was actually fortunate because he inspired countless people with his powerful and emphatic poetry.
Amidst poetry recitals, Nigah intermittently conveyed one anecdote after another about the poet, which revealed the simplicity and sense of humour of the man whose poignant words touched millions of hearts.
Nigah relayed an incident when Faiz was all set to leave her residence in Beirut to meet a guest. Yet Nigah advised him not to do so. When the poet ingenuously inquired the reason for her suggestion, Nigah replied, “That person often says something negative things about you. I have heard them myself!” To this the poet Faiz said ligh-theartedly, “Tum kharab batain sunti kyon ho!”(Why do you hear bad stuff?) We must switch off our minds when such negative stuff is said.”
Object of affection
Faiz was renowned for having many female fans. Yet according to Nigah, the humble writer was not always at ease in the company of all his admirers from the fairer sex. Zehra Nigah recalled a female devotee of Faiz once called at her residence and expressed her earnest desire to meet the revolutionary poet that very evening. Nigah recollected, “Faiz seemed eager to meet this unknown woman too and I thought I should leave to make tea and let the two spend time together in the park.”
“But when the lady arrived, she turned out to be much older than Faiz!” told an amused Nigah.
At the sight of the elderly woman the disappointed poet sheepishly requested Nigah sit with the aged woman, while he went to make tea for them.
Nigah also told about the sincerity of Faiz’s poety. “There are two types of poets: One whose poetry is influenced by the mind and imagination and the others who write poetry from the depths of their heart. Faiz fell in the latter category,” the late poet’s friend recalled fondly. She said that his poetry, inspired by the plight of the masses in his dear homeland, was simply a pristine manifestation of the love he felt in his heart.
The female poet also affectionately revealed the deceased legend’s remarkable modesty. Apparently when Nigah praised Faiz by calling him a great poet, the bard’s jocular reply was, “No actually Iqbal is a great poet; I am merely a good second divisioner!”
The event, which offered a glimpse into the personality of one of Pakistan’s most powerful literary figures, was certainly an enjoyable trip down memory lane.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2011.